As opinions concerning marijuana change across America, Malloy has called for the removal of mandatory minimum sentencing requirements for marijuana possession. In its place, his proposal would classify drug possession a misdemeanor. The plan would make a dent in the state’s prison population which has more than tripled since 1995.
Governor Malloy argued mandatory sentencing has deprived the people of Connecticut the opportunity to contribute to society while costing the state too much money in prosecuting and jailing people who use marijuana. Speaking to the law students, Malloy stated, “…we will save substantial amounts of money and lower crime by producing fewer criminals.” In federal numbers, marijuana prosecution has been a costly endeavor for law enforcement.
According to the FBI, more than 43 percent of all drug arrests are for marijuana possession. Combining the small amount of prosecution for sale and distribution, nearly half of all federal drug arrests are solely for crimes involving marijuana. Additional statistics from the law enforcement agency show almost 800,000 Americans reside in prison for marijuana convictions, at a cost of $16 billion per year.
In a press release published by CT News, Malloy claimed the proposal would take a medical, not criminal approach to drug use and addiction. In the statement Malloy argued he,”has already taken important steps to combat substance abuse and opioid overdose in Connecticut.” In the plan, the state would combat addiction by supplying nalaxone, an overdose reversing drug that has been credited with saving hundreds of lives since it’s been supplied to addicts in B.C. The drug works by reversing the suppression of an addict’s breathing, and works within minutes; wearing off in around 90 minutes.
The plan also makes note of the mental illness link to drug addiction, promising to support the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services and instruct them to work with the government to install, “future policy changes and public awareness strategies necessary to combat addiction.”
According to the National Institute of Health, “People with severe mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder have a higher risk for substance use.” In a press release from January 2014 the NIH noted previous studies that indicated almost 8.4 million Americans have a mental health and addiction disorder.
Malloy’s attempt to treat addiction with strong health programs is an idea proposed by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in 2014. Talking with the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, the UNOD recommended “healthcare systems should take primary responsibility for addressing substance abuse and addiction through implementation of evidence-based treatment and prevention as well as screening in primary care settings.”
Malloy’s plan has been criticized by State Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano who claimed, “”First-time offenders almost never get any arrest record.” The leading Republican in Connecticut suggested he supports certain aspects of the bill, but will lead his party in drafting their counter proposal later on in the legislative session.